The quest to build a youth center in Andover has actually been going on for more than 50 years, stretching back way before Andover Youth Services was founded. In AYS founder Billy Fahey's office are letters dating back to the 1960s from young people urging town leaders to continue the effort to build a youth center... needless to say, this project has been in the works for a long time.
Fahey took up the youth center project a year after he arrived in town and started Andover Youth Services in 1994. In '95, a proposal to build a youth center in Rec Park was narrowly defeated. At the time, town leaders told Fahey to go develop a program and then come back and ask for support for a youth center. Thanks to the tireless work of Bill and countless other workers, counselors and volunteers, build a program they did. Today, AYS is an award-winning youth development program serving more than 6,000 participants a month and running more than 300 programs a year.
A youth center proposal for a site in West Andover won approval at Town Meeting in 2000 but stalled a few years later when environmental issues rendered the site unusable. The Andover Youth Foundation, a private fundraising group, stopped soliciting donations for a youth center until a new site was identified.
At Town Meeting in 2007, voters approved a site behind Doherty Middle School for the youth center. The current building would occupy 20,000 square feet and would include a gym, multi-purpose performance space, activity rooms and conference areas. The Andover Youth Foundation is very close to their initial goal of raising $2 million for the project. They are currently working to call a special town meeting for December 2011 to propose a public/private partnership through which the town would commit another $2 million to complete the funding portion of the project.